Back Bay Land: South Side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester

The block on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester is 500 feet in length and 112 feet from Beacon to Alley 427.

The land was part of the Boston Water Power Company’s holdings in the residential portion of the Back Bay, which included all of the land from the south side of Beacon to the north side of Commonwealth west of a line about 95 feet east of Fairfield. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts owned the land to the east. The company also owned the land on the south side of Commonwealth west of a point about 135 feet west of Hereford. The land to the east was owned by the Sears family.

The company sold all its land in large parcels, almost exclusively to real estate investment trusts which then subdivided the land and resold it. It sold land in 1863, 1866, 1868, and 1872, by which point it had sold all of its land between the Commonwealth’s lands and a line 125 feet west of Massachusetts Avenue (West Chester Park). It sold the remainder of its land in the residential portion of the neighborhood in 1880.

Click here for more information on the Boston Water Power Company land in the Back Bay.

Plan by J. F. Fuller, 11Apr1863 (Suffolk Co. Deed Registry, Book 826, p. 203)

On April 15, 1863, the Boston Water Power Company entered into an agreement to sell all of its land between Fairfield and Gloucester on the south side of Beacon, north and south sides of Marlborough, and north side of Commonwealth to a real estate investment trust formed by John Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker. The company subdivided the parcels into eighty lots (twenty per block), as shown on an April 11, 1863, plan prepared by J. F. Fuller, and issued individual deed bonds to the trustees, securing their right to purchase each lot. On January 29, 1866, the trustees paid for and took title to all of the land.

J. Templeman Coolidge was president of the Columbian National Bank; he and his wife Louisa Riché (Tilden) Coolidge, lived at 108 Beacon. Franklin Evans was a merchant and real estate investor; he and his wife, Carrie E. (Ellis) Evans, lived at the Tremont House hotel. Charles Henry Parker was treasurer of the Suffolk Savings Bank; he and his wife, Laura Wolcott (Jackson) Trotter Parker, lived at 33 Chestnut.

J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners offered all of their land for sale at two public auctions conducted by N. A. Thompson & Co.

On Friday, February 2, 1886, they offered all of the lots on the south side of Beacon. The January 27, 1866, announcement of the sale in the Boston Advertiser indicated that both these lots and all of the lots on the north side of Marlborough would be sold. However, the Marlborough lots either were withdrawn or did not sell, inasmuch as reports of the sale results included only the lots on Beacon.

On March 15, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners offered all of their remaining land, including all of the land on the north and south sides of Marlborough and the north side of Commonwealth.

The block on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester was composed of twenty lots: a 32 foot corner lot at Fairfield (Lot 1), four 25 foot lots to the west of it (Lots 2-5), fourteen 22 foot lots to the west of them (Lots 6-19), and one 32 foot corner lot at Gloucester (Lot 20).

On March 16, 1866, the Boston Evening Transcript reported that, at the auction the day before, there were no bids for Lot 1, at the corner of Fairfield, but that Lots 2-7 were purchased by Sidney Homer. The article was silent on the bids for the other lots and it appears that they were not sold. The lots subsequently were sold by J, Templeman Coolidge and his partners through privately negotiated sales (rather than at public auction), most of the land being conveyed by deeds dated April 20, 1866, or May 21, 1868.

Eastern Parcels. On April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners in the real estate investment trust sold the corner lot at Fairfield, with a frontage on Marlborough of 32 feet, to Sidney Homer. The lot was not among those reported as sold at the March 15, 1866, auction, but Sidney Homer was successful bidder for the six lots immediately west of it (Lots 2-7). He also acquired Lots 9-12 on April 20, 1866.

Also on April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners sold Lot 8 to George N. Farwell. Sidney Homer subsequently sold or transferred his rights to purchase Lots 6-7, and they were purchased by George Farwell from J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners on May 21, 1868.

On December 3, 1870, Edward John Hale acquired all of the land from the corner of Fairfield through Lot 6, with a total frontage of 156 feet on Marlborough. He purchased the corner lot from Sidney Homer, Lots 2-5 from J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners (having acquired Sidney Homer’s right to purchase them), and Lot 6 from George N. Farwell. Edward Hale was associated with John M. Forbes & Co., shipping merchants and investors in railroads, mining, and other enterprises. He and his wife, Justine Elise (Sewell) Hale, lived at 3 Brimmer.

On March 22, 1872, building contractor George Martin Gibson purchased the land from Edward Hale. He subsequently built 7-9 Fairfield and 282-284-286-288-290-292 Marlborough for speculative sale.

Central Parcels. As noted above, on December 3, 1870, George N. Farwell sold Lot 6 to Edward J. Hale. He continued to own Lots 7-8, and on April 1, 1872, he sold them to investment banker Henry C. Wainwright. On December 1, 1877, Henry Wainwright sold the lots to Harvard law professor James Barr Ames, who had 294-296 Marlborough built for speculative sale. James Barr Ames was the son of Samuel Tarbell Ames, a building contractor.

On October 19, 1869, Sidney Homer sold Lots 10-12 to Franklin Evans, one of the three partners in the real estate investment trust. Sidney Homer died in December of 1869, and on April 19, 1871, his estate sold Lot 9 to Franklin Evans.

Franklin Evans died in January of 1874, and on March 1, 1878, his widow, Carrie (Ellis) Evans, sold Lots 9-10 to James Barr Ames. His father, Samuel T. Ames, built 298-300 Marlborough for speculative sale.

On April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners had sold lots 13-14 to Solomon Henry Howe, a dry goods merchant and farm owner in Bolton, Massachusetts. On April 5, 1871, they were acquired from him by the Metropolitan Railroad Company. Two months earlier, the company had acquired Lots 11-12 from Franklin Evans. The four lots remained vacant until 1878, when builder Daniel Weeks Beckler built 302-304-306-308-310 Marlborough for speculative sale. After the houses were completed, the Metropolitan Railroad Company sold the land to attorney Harvey Jewell, one of the company’s directors. He retained them as rental property. After his death in December of 1881, his estate sold them to individual purchasers.

Western Parcels. On April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners sold Lot 15 to Ebenezer Shepard Bacon and Lot 16 to his brother, William Benjamin Bacon, both shipping merchants in the East India trade and later bankers. They also were brothers-in-law: Eben Bacon’s wife, Susan Gilchrist (Low) Bacon, and William Bacon’s wife, Emily Crosby (Low) Bacon, were sisters; Susan (Low) Bacon had died in September of 1865. Eben Bacon lived in West Roxbury and William and Emily Bacon lived in Jamaica Plain.

Also on April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners sold Lot 17 to Thomas Jefferson Coolidge. He was an investor in textile mills, banks, and railroads, and later would serve as Ambassador to France. He and his wife, Mehitable (Hetty) Sullivan (Appleton) Coolidge, lived at 93 Beacon; after his wife’s death in March of 1901, he lived at 315 Dartmouth.

All three lots remained vacant until 1879.

On February 8, 1879, Thomas Sergeant Perry purchased Lot 15 from Eben Bacon, and built his home at 312 Marlborough.

On May 26, 1879, James Barr Ames purchased Lot 17 from T. Jefferson Coolidge, and on June 5, 1879, he purchased Lot 16 from William B. Bacon. His father, Samuel Tarbell Ames, had 314 Marlborough and 320 Marlborough built for speculative sale (there are no houses numbered 316-318 Marlborough).

On April 20, 1866, J. Templeman Coolidge and his partners sold the 32 foot corner lot (Lot 20) and the 24 foot lot to its east (Lot 19) to attorney William Powell Mason. He and his wife, Hannah (Rogers) Mason, lived at 63 Mt. Vernon. On the same day, his son, William Powell Mason, Jr., purchased the two lots across Alley 427, at the corner of Commonwealth and Gloucester.

Also on April 20, 1866, Lot 18 was purchased by Laura Wolcott (Jackson) Trotter Parker, the wife of Charles Henry Parker, one of the partners in the real estate investment trust. She sold the lot on June 7, 1869, to Harvey Jewell (who later would purchase 302-310 Marlborough).

On April 27, 1872, Harvey Jewell sold Lot 18 to architect Willard Thomas Sears, and on the same day, the estate of William P. Mason (who had died in December of 1867) sold Willard Sears the two lots further west. Willard Sears built 322 Marlborough and 9-11-13-15 Gloucester. Willard Sears and his wife, May (Motte) Sears, made 15 Gloucester their home. He sold he lot at 322 Marlborough to his brother-in-law and sister, Charles W. Seabury and Elizabeth Willard (Sears) Seabury, in July of 1872, before the house was completed, and kept 9-11-13 Gloucester as rental property.

Original Construction. All of the buildings on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester had been built by 1879.

The plan below illustrates when houses were first constructed on the block (based on building permit applications, news reports, and dates provided in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay).

Original construction on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester

Building Restrictions in Original Land Deeds

Both the Boston Water Power Company’s 1863 deed bond securing the right to purchase the land and its 1866 deed conveying the land included language specifying that any building on the land “at least three stories high for the main part thereof and shall not in any event be used for a stable (except a private stable), or for any mechanical or manufacturing purposes;” that the front walls were to be set back twenty-two feet from Marlborough, with “steps, windows, porticos, and other usual projections appurtenant thereto” allowed in the reserved space subject to dimensional limitations enumerated in the deed; and that “no cellar or lower floor of any building shall be placed more than four feet below the level of the mill-dam, as fixed by the top surface of the hammered stone at the south-easterly corner of the emptying sluices.” The deed also provided that the owners of the land would have the right to “cultivate trees on the side walks” in front of their land provided that they left a distance of ten feet between the front boundary of their lots and the trees.

These restrictions were virtually identical to those contained in the deeds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveying its Back Bay land.

Click here for more information on the restrictions contained in deeds of Back Bay land.

Original Land Deeds

The Boston Water Power Company sold its land on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester by the following deeds, which also included the parcels of land between Fairfield and Gloucester on the south side of Beacon, the north side of Marlborough and the north side of Commonwealth.

Address Date E-W N-S Grantee Book Page
7-9 Fairfield
282-322 Marlborough
9-11-13-15 Gloucester
29Jan1866 500′ 112’ J. Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker, trustees under a deed of trust dated 8Apr1863 (Book 827, p. 32) 871 183
7-9 Fairfield
282-322 Marlborough
9-11-13-15 Gloucester
(deed bond securing the right to purchase)
15Apr1863 500′ 112’ J. Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker, trustees under a deed of trust dated 8Apr1863 (Book 827, p. 32) 526 202

J. Templeman Coolidge, Franklin Evans, and Charles Henry Parker, trustees, conveyed the land on the south side of Marlborough between Fairfield and Gloucester by the following deeds:

Address Date E-W N-S Grantee Book Page
7-9 Fairfield
282-284 Marlborough
20Apr1866 32’ 112’ Sidney Homer 1027 7
282-290 Marlborough 03Dec1870 100’ 112’ Edward J. Hale 1027 11
290-292 Marlborough 21May1868 24’ 112’ George N. Farwell 926 246
294 Marlborough 21May1868 24’ 112’ George N. Farwell 926 248
296 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ George N. Farwell 901 158
298 Marlborough (confirmatory deed) 01Jan1879 24’ 112’ Sidney Homer 1445 26
300 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Sidney Homer 978 292
302-304 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Sidney Homer 978 293
304-306 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Sidney Homer 978 295
306-308 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Solomon H. Howe 878 12
309-310 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Solomon H. Howe 878 13
312 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Eben Bacon 877 307
314 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ William B. Bacon 877 214
320 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ T. Jefferson Coolidge 877 300
322 Marlborough 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ Laura W. Parker 877 15
9-11-13-15 Gloucester 20Apr1866 24’ 112’ William P. Mason 877 205
9-11-13-15 Gloucester 20Apr1866 32’ 112’ William P. Mason 877 206